Monday, September 2, 2013

The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan (Exodus 23:20-33)

The following quote is taken from

"The Angel of Death - "My angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites; and I will wipe them out."  (Exodus 23:23 NAB)

            This verse is part of a larger passage in which God gave instructions to the Israelites regarding the land that he had promised to give them.  You can read the entire chapter here:

            This passage is part of the speech in which God revealed the Law to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai, after God had saved the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  God warned the Israelites not to live amongst the nations in the land he was giving them, or else they would entice the Israelites into sin by encouraging them to worship idols, and thus break the covenant that they had made with God, who rescued them.
            Why would it have been such a threat for the Israelites to live among these nations?  These ancient nations were incestuous, barbaric and cruel.  They engaged in sexual intercourse with members of their own families, including parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, aunts/uncles and in-laws; and sex with animals.  The Canaanites especially engaged in cultic prostitution: each man and woman were forced to participate in the ritual at least once, which was believed to stimulate the fertility of the crops, animals and humans [1].  The prostitutes (male or female) would engage in sexual intercourse on a public altar or in front of a shrine, with whomever would give them money in exchange.  The Canaanites would give their firstborn daughters to the local pagan temples for this purpose.  They also practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing their children to their god Molech by burning them to death (Leviticus 18) [2].  "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31, NIV).
            It was for these reasons that God pronounced his sentence of judgment upon them.  "Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.  Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants" (Leviticus 18:24-25, NIV).  God gave these nations 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13-16).  Though the nations had knowledge of God and what he had done for the Israelites (Joshua 2:8-11), they refused to make peace with the Israelites or repent and turn to God.  If they had, God would have not destroyed them.  "If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned" (Jeremiah 18:7-8, NIV; see also Jonah chapter 3).

[1] Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.  Pg. 53, 73, 89.
[2] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 88, 156.